Big Harp is set to release Chain Letters via Saddle Creek on January 22. In anticipation of the release The Onion’s AV Club is running an exclusive album stream a week before street date. Additionally, Big Harp was featured on this Sunday’s episode of NPR’s Weekend Edition. You can listen to the piece online and order the album at Saddle Creek web store. The Los Angeles-based band will celebrate the release of their new album with an in-store on January 22 at LA’s Origami Vinyl and have several Los Angeles tour dates announced in January and February. All shows are listed below.
Chain Letters was recorded at Omaha’s ARC studios with engineer Ben Brodin and partly at the band’s Los Angeles home. The album was mixed by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, M Ward, First Aid Kit). On Chain Letters, the duo of Chris Senseney and Stefanie Drootin-Senseney is joined by their friend John Voris on drums. The album moves away from the rustic, pastoral sound of their debut and towards a truer union of their backgrounds (Chris grew up in Valentine, NE, an isolated cow town of 2,800; Stefanie is a native Angeleno). Built on a foundation of crackling fuzz bass and angular electric guitars and keyboards, the songs on Chain Letters play like a series of character sketches centered around escape and surrender, and the blurred borders where the two become indistinguishable.
Chris and Stefanie (The Good Life, Bright Eyes, She & Him) formed Big Harp in December 2010, after a three-year whirlwind that saw the two meet, have a baby, move halfway across the country, get married, move halfway across the country again, and have another baby. As Chris tells it, “I was playing in a band opening for The Good Life. Stef and I started hanging out, binge-smoking and chain-drinking, and we never stopped. Never stopped hanging out I mean. Within a few months Stef had a gut full of baby, and the bender came to a quick and bloody end.” When the dust settled, they holed up in Stefanie’s parents’ spare bedroom, practiced for a week, and recorded their debut album White Hat, a collection of intimate, low-key folk-rock laced with subtle irony and dark humor that earned them comparisons to songwriters like Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt.
From the pained apathy of “You Can’t Save ‘Em All” to the cracked parade march of “Call Out the Cavalry, Strike Up the Band,” Chain Letters finds the band enveloping and exploding their literate songs with fuzzed-out, needle-sharp textures. Chris says, “We really built the songs around Stef’s fuzz bass. It was kind of funny — we were sitting around in a bedroom playing really loud with no drums, just kind of trusting that it was going to make sense once we put it all together. Hopefully we landed closer to mid-’70’s Iggy Pop than Leonard Cohen this time. Really I’d like it to sound like Leonard Cohen fronting The Pixies. It doesn’t though. Maybe a little. You tell us.”
Big Harp Tour Dates
01.22 – Los Angeles, CA @ Origami Vinyl (7 pm free in-store)
01.25 – Los Angeles, CA @ Hotel Cafe
02.06 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Bootleg
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